Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving II

No Name Harbor Thanksgiving 2014
Our first cruising Thanksgiving on Kintala was in Oriental. We had been out barely six weeks. Four of those six had been spent during a long month of being tied to the dock while we struggled through cold temperatures and ugly storms, both weather and broken-engine related. Looking back it seems an even worse start to our cruising life than it felt at the time, and it felt pretty grim at the time. It was also the first Thanksgiving spent without any of the family nearby. I was as unsure of myself as I have even been, desperately missed my girls and their families, and was not the least convinced I had the skills necessary to make things better. But there was no choice other than going on and hoping that things wouldn't get any worse. Yet that Thanksgiving day was still a good day. We were thankful that we had made it out at all as many people never get a chance to even try to live their dreams. We were thankful that we had managed as many miles as we had; that the engine and other maintenance tasks appeared to be under control. And, not to put too fine a point on it, I was thankful that I had not manged to kill us both and/or sink the boat ... at least so far.

A year later Kintala is floating easy in No Name Harbor. People ask me for advice about many things cruising, about our “experience” in the Islands, on how to safely get across the Gulf Stream.  They ask about fixing their boats and judging the weather, and that is something that still surprises me. On the other hand the attrition rate during the first year of cruising seems much higher than I would have expected. Being a cruiser is not the same as planning to be a cruiser and, for some, the difference becomes crushingly obvious very quickly. Anyone who is looking forward to a second year has climbed an enormous learning and experience curve. One that is very much behind us on this Thanksgiving II.

We still have much to learn (and I still desperately miss my girls and their families), but this is our life now and we have gone a long way into settling into it. A large part of that has been setting aside what we thought cruising meant to us, and accepting what we it does mean to us. We are not "blue water adventurers" but rather a middle-aged couple who managed to retire a bit early to go exploring in nearby waters. I admire friends who have sailed around the world and who plan to keep going, but there is no chance I will be following in their wake. I like sailing. I like that we have put in some 2000 nm while using - maybe - 200 gallons of fuel, including motoring down the ICW. I like being out on the open ocean with no land in sight. I even like sailing at night, so long as it is one night at a time. But I really like sitting out unruly weather snug and comfortable in a pretty place, puttering around on my boat, meeting different people, and exploring different places.

Good friends, good food
In that mellow light, Friends Mizzy and Brian (of sailing about half way around the world fame) and Friend Bill (of Airline driving fame) joined us for Thanksgiving dinner on Kintala. Deb worked galley magic and our feast had all of the fixings. Sailing and flying memories filled the cabin. The combination of friends, food, and sitting quietly at anchor while the remnants of the latest cold front brought perfect weather, made for a day so fine as to take one's breath away. It doesn't always work out this way, but on this day we managed to be among the Royalty of the world. We have family who loves us in spite of our wandering ways. Deb still trusts that I will manage to not sink the boat or kill us both, and keep our Tartan as a functioning home at the same time. Friends sail waters nearby and far away. Being an accepted member of that tribe is an honor bestowed on the few and the lucky.

This was a thanks giving day, indeed.


Monday, November 24, 2014

A small No-Name Harbor Photo Essay

The lighthouse in Bill Baggs State Park


A slightly damaged Great Blue Heron. Wonder who took a chunk out of him?
An awesome cat boat. Spent some time talking to the Captain who is from Spanish Wells. Neat guy. He took it there today.

There are some amazing and very weird trees in the park
A gorgeous Hylas 54 headed out of No-Name

Fishing at sunset

A manatee came to visit us at the pumpout dock. He was easily eight feet and HUGE. He also had very bad breath.


Tim got to pet him while Kintala looks on. It doesn't get much better than this.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Can't top this ...

Teresia Benedicta (aka Edie) arrives! Photo courtesy of her mom.
For the most part America's corporate world is built around morning people, with 0800 being the magic start time of many working days. It is a poor fit for my night owl schedule. Left to myself 0200 – 0300 would be a normal bedtime, with 0900 – 1100 being “first thing in the morning”. Combine that with night breezes running in the F5 to F6 range for days, boats all around, and tales of questionable holding here in No Name, and I have tended to roll out of the v-berth hours after Deb for most of this last week.

This morning a bright sun burned its way through my eyelids. Sun? Then I realized that the boat wasn't moving much and the snubber lines weren't groaning under the load of holding against the wind. Furled up sails weren't rattling. The Bimini top wasn't flapping. Could it be that Florida weather had finally returned to Florida? A bleary-eyed gaze down the length of the boat found Deb in an animated phone conversation while sitting at the top of the companionway. It was all the look I needed to know that Daughter Middle had welcomed our Grand Baby VIII into the world. Though a couple of weeks early, Daughter and her new Daughter are both doing fine. Go ahead, try to think of a better way to start a day.

A few hours later Friend Bill, he of DHS helicopter driver fame, called. (That would be a different Friend Bill than he of American Airline driver fame.) DHS helicopter Bill and his fiance were going to be in No Name Harbor and wanted to know if we would join them for lunch. They were waiting seawall side as we rowed our way through the throng of powerboats out celebrating the break in the weather. It was our fist chance to meet Sunne, who instantly became number one on my Charming Ladies Met Recently List. Who would have thought DHS helicopter drivers rated so high?

Photo courtesy of Sunne
Over lunch we heard about their plans to do some cruising of their own. The advantages of trying out different boats by chartering were debated, interspersed with stories from the nearly a year that has passed since we saw Bill last. Among the tales was one of Bill and Sunne, running his 33' trimaran all out at the head of a race, getting caught fleet-footed in a micro burst and turning in the thing over on its side. No one was hurt and no damage was done, well, except for that laid on Bill's wallet for the price of being “salvaged” by Tow Boat US. Apparently throwing a line around an ama and tugging a tri back up on its training wheels is a multi-thousand dollar “big deal”. In any case I was glad that our first year of cruising had left us with no story of daring-do to rival. The best I could come up with was a short night swim to haul a drunk girl out of the water. (Dead last on my Charming Ladies Met Recently List.)

After lunch they joined us on Kintala, giving Sunne a chance to poke around an honest-to-real cruising boat doing an honest-to-real cruise. Bill inspected my deck repair and allowed as it looked pretty good. The fact is I can see where the repair was done now, since filler and paint have shrunk some. Still, it was kind of a fellow aviator / mechanic / inspector (ATP, A&P, I A in airplane speak) to give it a passing grade. They hung around until the sun started sinking close to the horizon and we certainly hope to spend some more time with them before too long.

All in all a string of days not the kind you write home about, was broken by a day that will be hard to beat. Teresia Benedicta Rennier, welcome to the world. DeMa and Grampy-T love you already, and in just a few weeks will be cooing stories of sailing to you while you sleep.

Friday, November 21, 2014

D3 of F5


Today is Kintala's third full day in No Name Harbor. The winds picked up to a steady Force 5 within hours of the hook hitting the mud and, with the exception of a couple of hours here and there, have remained constant ever since. Weather maps suggest the wind is being driven by a large high pressure area north of here, one which shows little inclination to go anywhere in a hurry. This being south Florida there is always a lot of moisture in the air, so any kind of disturbance is likely to kick up scattered rain showers. Nothing serious, just enough to make opening and closing ports and hatches a regular daily exercise. With the winds out of the northeast my guess is friends tied to moorings in Dinner Key, facing waves generated by the steady winds working on the miles of open water in front of them, are likely not enjoying the ride.

Here in No Name fetch is not an issue and the waters are nothing but wavelets and cat's paws. Kintala still swings and sways though, dancing around her anchor like kids playing Marco Polo. It isn't uncomfortable, really, just enough to make missteps common, a kind of stumble / lurch little dance that land living only sees when the earth moves. A much bigger deal than some wind and waves. (I have experienced exactly one little earthquake in my life. It was enough, thank you.)

The original idea behind heading for Biscayne Bay was to spend most of the month exploring, getting further south than we had last winter, maybe making it all the way to Key Largo. This is a pretty place and is, so far, our favorite part of the US when it comes to cruising waters. It doesn't hurt that it is just a day sail away from the Islands. But the winds are enough to keep us pinned down for now. The weather gurus suggest a two day break early next week, to be followed by more of this kind of stuff. So we may get a chance to do a little exploring yet, but the month is going to end up being spent differently than we had planned.

That may be one of the biggest differences between how we used to live and how we live now. (Apart, of course, from getting up most mornings to spend the day working at what others tell us they need done.) In the old life, changing a day's general plan, or sometimes even the next hour's, wasn't all that common. Out here weeks, even whole months, will be spent doing something unexpected. Kintala spent a month in Oriental getting a broken engine fixed. She spent the summer sitting in Florida instead of Lady's Island or the Chesapeake, her crew working much more than playing. It looks like much of this month will be spent hunkered down sitting out weather rather than riding easy in open, clear waters.

The rumor is that “out here” is a place where one can take control of life. And the truth is, it can be. But to my mind out here is not a place where we control so much as experience. Even a modest land life, one where transportation is by car and home base is a solid building of brick, wood, roof, and wall, has much more command over the weather than any in a small sailboat. A “big rain” cold front for the land liver means turning on the windshield wipers and getting to wherever a few minutes later. The same weather in a small sailboat is best avoided all together, the boat secured in a place like No Name Harbor. Getting to wherever may happen the next day, or the next week. The same weather that has us changing plans for a month's worth of cruising is barely being noticed at all by Floridians, their main complaint being a lack of sunshine and the need to wear a light jacket.

So, for now, we will experience practicing the fine art of waiting. I'll work on some Spanish, Deb on the next book in her children's book series. The experience of living on a boat.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hydrocoat Update

There's an update on the Hydrocoat review on the tab in the bar above if you're looking for bottom paint.

Safe Harbors ...

So the weather forecasts were all about the inbound cold front. Some had the winds gusting to 20, some to 25, and one was suggesting 30 as the upper limit. What ever Sister Sky is up to, it doesn't look like she will be done playing until the weekend.

Ship side, Kintala's holding tank is half full. Her LP tanks are almost empty. The fridge is sans milk and the cupboard sans coffee. The laundry bag is nearly full and the dinner choices are getting fewer.

The Miami Stadium anchorage is a pretty place, well protected, and good friends are nearby. It is a safe harbor in a blow. But the people on shore are not cruiser friendly and, even if they were, there are no support facilities within walking range. The debate last night was staying for another week and making do with what we had, or heading out. We decided to stay.

This morning we decided to scoot. The deck monkey went to work at 0725. By 0800 the WesterBeast was awake. Less than ten minutes later the hook was on deck and Kintala was nosing her way toward the Rickenbacker Causeway. Once under the bridge she hunted down the point of sail that would lead to No Name Harbor, which turned out to be a pure beam reach that kept her keel directly over the ICW magenta line. Inbound cold front or no, the wind was shuffling along at ten to twelve. Full main and jib turned that into a solid five to six across the bay. The wind wasn't due to pick up for several hours and we had plenty of time. But seeing good, solid cruising numbers with the leading edge of the clouds visible off the stern will make any sailor smile.

Back in No-Name Harbor

About an hour later the turn toward the harbor entrance came abeam, which put the wind mostly on the behind us. Just for fun the jib and main were stowed and the new roller-furled staysail was spun out for the first time. We didn't expect much given its small size, but it made just shy of two knots of motion out of barely five knots apparent. I'm pretty sure that, whenever the winds gust past fifteen, that little sail is going to be my new best friend.  It rolls in just as easy as it rolls out, and the boat seems to like how it pulls on the mast.

A couple hours later the Midwest cold front arrived

Kintala sits content in No Name Harbor this evening. Sister sky has turned gray, there are whitecaps on the bay, and the temperature has sagged from slightly too warm to just perfect for a sweatshirt and hot cocoa in the cockpit. As long as the winds don't provoke a need for an anchor watch, tonight promises to be perfect for a bit of snuggling under the covers. Friends Bill and Ann, just back from a visit to a freezer named St. Louis, provided wheels for Deb to do some resupply this afternoon. (No Name has the necessary stores but they are a bit of a hike.) Kintala is full up on milk, coffee, food, LP, and even has a little extra beer on board.


Six other boats lie behind us in the harbor. One is a Nordhaven 40 trawler, which may be the pick of of that particular powerboat litter. As we passed by aiming for a spot to park, her Captain was kind enough to regard our old Tartan in like manor. This is what a “safe harbor” really means, and we are pretty content with our choice to be in this one tonight.